Simple Bets

These can be combined on one ticket, but I will list them individually.

  • Win - You bet on the horse to win. If he wins, you get your bet back plus your bet multiplied by the horse's odds to win.
  • Place - You bet on the horse to win or place (come in second). If the horse finishes at least second, you win your bet back plus a smaller amount than you would have received had your horse won.
  • Show - You bet on the horse to win, place, or show (come in third). If the horse finishes at least third, you win your bet back plus a smaller amount than you would have received had your horse placed.

Note that you may bet on the same horse to win and place; or win and show; or place and show; or win, place, and show. If so, you will receive multiple payoffs if the horse finishes early enough to satisfy more than one of the positions.

Exotic Wagers

The word "exotic" seems out of place here, but I've seen it used in official racing programs before. These are bets that involve more than one horse. They can be boxed to include all permutations of the horses you select, and wheeled to include all other horses in the field.

  • Exacta - You pick the first two horses to finish, in that order. If boxed, the order doesn't matter but your bet amount is doubled. For example, an "Exacta 5 6 boxed" becomes a bet for 5-6 and 6-5.
  • Quinella or Quiniella - The same as a boxed exacta bet.
  • Trifecta - You pick the first three horses to finish, in that order. If boxed, your bet amount is sextupled. If one of the three horses is a long shot, you can win a lot of money this way.
  • Superfecta - Offered only rarely, usually in the last race, this requires you to pick the first four horses to finish in order. If boxed, your bet amount is multiplied by 24. Superfecta payoffs can be as high as 1000-to-1, but your chances of winning are slim.

Multiple Race Bets

These involve more than one race, but you must bet before the first race in question begins.

  • Pick 4 or Pick 6 - Choose the winner of four or six consecutive races. Big payoffs, but big risks too.
  • Daily Double - Two races are pre-selected. Select the winners of both and win bigger than if you had bet them individually. Of course, it's double or nothing.

Multiple race bets vary by track. Check the program in advance.

How to Bet

First of all, make sure that you are of legal age to bet. In most U.S. states, the legal age to gamble on horse racing is only 18 (thus making it more attractive than casinos, which require that you are 21).

Most tracks now include some kind of self-service machines where you can do this with a touch screen, but these instructions are mainly geared towards people who are using tellers. You will need the following information:

  1. The track of the race. If unspecified, it defaults to "this track."
  2. The number of the race. Again, if unspecified, it defaults to "the next race."
  3. The amount of the bet. Respect the minimum bets (usually $2 for basic bets, and $1 for exotic bets) and avoid teller windows with high pre-set minimums for high rollers. If you want to box or wheel a bet, give the amount of each bet; this amount will be multiplied appropriately.
  4. The type of the bet. See above.
  5. The numbers of the horses you are betting on. Specify the numbers in order if you are not making a boxed bet. If there are multiple horses bearing the same number (2 and 2A, for example) a bet for one is a bet for all at no extra charge.
  6. Any special modifiers, like "box" or "wheel," must be specified at the time of purchase.

For example, to bet two dollars on either 4-5 or 5-4 in the next race at this track, you would say "$2 exacta box 4 5." Don't hesitate, particularly if there is a line. All betting stops at post time.

Winning tickets can be applied to future bets or cashed at a ticket window.

Good luck!